Months after being in a video with lines of a white powdery substance, Evgeny Kuznetsov was suspended four years by the IIHF on Friday after testing positive for cocaine. Kuznetsov, who will not be able to play internationally until June 2023 and could face punishment from the NHL, said in a Capitals statement that “I feel absolutely terrible for letting you down. I realize that the only way I can win you back is to take ownership of my situation and my actions from this point forward.”
Tuesday, Tom Wilson became the first Capitals player to comment on Kuzy’s suspension. He stood behind his teammate.
“We’re going to have his back,” Wilson said to Sportsnet’s Luke Fox during the second day of BioSteel Camp. “Hopefully he can get through it. It’s never something you like to see in the media, but I’m sure he’ll learn. He’ll grow as a person and a player. We’re focused on Capitals. Whatever happens with the international stuff, it’s none of our business.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” Wilson added, unsure if Kuznetsov will receive discipline from the NHL. “It’s kind of a sticky situation, but I’m sure it’ll all be handled. If he’s in a Caps uniform Game 1, he’ll play. If not, we’ll deal with it.”
Wilson, who hasn’t spoken to Kuznetsov, also spoke to TSN and called Kuzy a “great teammate.”
“I don’t know too many of the details, but I just heard what you heard,” Wilson said. “He’s a great teammate and it’s unfortunate. I know he takes a lot of pride in playing for his country, so wishing him the best with resolving the situation. And obviously, we’re just focused on the Capitals and whatever happens there. We’ll have his back.”
Kuznetsov’s former teammate, Brett Connolly, is also participating at the camp in Toronto after signing a four-year contract with the Florida Panthers in July. Connolly, who went viral with Kuznetsov for their failed fist bump, believed that Kuznetsov will ultimately grow from the experience because he owned up to it and is seeking help.
“I love Kuzy,” Connolly told Sportsnet. “He’s going to handle that in his own way. It’s definitely disappointing for him.
“He’ll deal with it. He’s a good person, a good family man,” Connolly added. “He’s got a little girl and they had another baby [a boy, Fedor, in June]. He’ll get through it. That’s life: You make mistakes, and you own up to them. He owned up to it. He knows. I love Kuzy. He’s an amazing player and really fun to be around. He really helped me the last two years, and he’ll be fine.”
Kuznetsov will meet with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman prior to the start of Capitals’ Training Camp.
Headline photo: TSN
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